Health experts share progress on independent train derailment studies
As we near the 9-month mark since the East Palestine Train derailment, cleanup continues daily to remove contaminated water and soil in the village.
As concerned citizens worked to find answers, they met with a handful of independent experts who shared updates and explanations of what they are studying and why.
Over a dozen independent researchers virtually met with The Unity Council for the East Palestine Train Derailment to discuss their ongoing studies. Researchers were from a variety of schools and organizations nationwide, including the University of San Diego, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Kentucky and the University of Illinois Chicago.
As the initial cleanup nears the finish line, medical experts say testing must continue between independent researchers and the EPA. Environmental experts like Stephen Lester claim the EPA still isn't doing enough to monitor dioxins in the area.
Dr. Lester claims the EPA refuses to follow up on dioxin numbers, and added the EPA doesn't want to test for dioxins because they know they’ll find some and don't want to answer the public's questions.
CEO of US BioSolutions LLC, Scott Smith, claims 30% of the area still needs to be followed up for review. In his independent research-- he found contaminated soil up to 283% higher than unaffected areas.
"We also look at total dioxins and furans and we also want to make sure we disclose all this data to the toxicologist and medical professionals," Smith explained.
Purdue University's Andrew Whelton conducted 6 field investigations to test for Creek water sampling, biodegradability in creeks, the impact of aeration, and well sampling. He found contaminated water has traveled as far as 170 miles down the Ohio River.
"Much of our work has focused on trying to understand the chemical exposure pathways," Whelton explained. "The pathways at which people may have come in contact with the chemicals."
Most data from the independent researchers was not available for the public to view because the crews needed to vet and review the information.
Lauryn Spearing, Prof. Civil Engineering of the University of Illinois Chicago is focusing her research on community experiences. The purpose of her study is to understand people’s experiences related to home and water impacts and she wants to document public perceptions and attitudes, understand what people need going forward, and analyze challenges and barriers in risk communication. There were 256 valid survey responses for the community study and they are finishing up analysis and drafting a summary report.
Spearing also completed 52 interviews and the summary report that will be posted in the coming weeks.
The community advisory board work continues for the University of Kentucky's Erin Haynes.
"We did also analyze from the CDC, the blood samples for dioxin because that had been a big concern. What about dioxin in the community," Haynes explained.
She's planning to follow participants for as long as possible, paying attention to long-term health effects with blood and urine samples.
400 residents have participated in the health tracking survey, conducted by Haynes so far. She is also conducting a wristband test as the devices passively absorb chemicals in the air. Those results will be posted at a later time.
Fredrick Schumacher with the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University also spoke on his efforts to analyze health risks related to the train derailment.
Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics Program told the virtual group she has never worked with an emergency response situation quite like East Palestine.
She explained the soils still need to be tested, along with VOC testing, and long-term medical monitoring and the government needs to provide immediate financial relief.
She wants agencies to test filters in schools and public buildings, and the government should pay for relocating.
Enck explained 99% of vinyl chloride is used to make PBC plastic and was designated a carcinogen in 1974.
This comes as distrust builds for the EPA testing as health frustrations linger, 9 months post-derailment.